“Are we ready for fundamental change?” (Ogawa)
As reported in the media, the government is considering the release of “treated water” *1 containing tritium (a radioactive substance) currently stored at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the ocean as it will reach its storage limit in the fall of 2022. *2
Ogawa: Even though I am in the opposition party, I feel a heavy responsibility as a member of the Diet. Right now, the tritium concentration is about 10 times higher than the safety standard for release, so if we dilute the tritium by a factor of 10, then scientifically it is okay to release it. But apart from such scientific perspective, it is a problem that must be solved from human psychology, including political and social acceptance, and damaging rumors.
I agree. But as you all know, the Fukushima nuclear power plant was generating electricity for us living in Tokyo. And when the accident happens, we are saying “Sorry, but can we also get rid of the contaminated water?” Should we be asking Fukushima to do that for us?
Ogawa: All problems are like this. The same goes for the nuclear power plant, and the garbage incineration plant as well, people will say, ‘We need it but we don’t want it in our neighborhood.’ And the U.S. military bases in Okinawa, where everyone thinks, ‘We understand the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, but we don’t want it near us.’ This is really a political and social dilemma, but I think we need to move up a level to a society where we don’t have to rely on them, but we’re not getting there. I feel that these dilemmas are condensed into the nuclear power plant issue.
SUGIZO: Right now, I think we have reached its limit as a civilization. Ever since the war, we have been under the influence of GHQ policies. Even if you look at the state of Japanese culture, in the end, America is the boss, and we are the underlings. I recognize the nuclear power plant issue as one of them. So, of course, tritium water and the future decommissioning of nuclear reactors are issues that loom before us. But as much as these are issues, I don’t think there will be any future for us, unless we all wake up and change the way we live, a major shift in the foundation of our society.
Why hasn’t nuclear power been eliminated from Japan, even though Japan experienced the atomic bombs and the nuclear power plant accident at 311 *3? The fundamental reason is the “Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.” In other words, Japan is under the nuclear umbrella of the United States. The reason why Japan cannot sign the Nuclear Weapons Convention even after the nuclear accident is because Japan is giving consideration to US, a nuclear power. There are three reasons why nuclear power plants will not be eliminated.
One is deterrence. We need to show the nuclear weapon states our capability to build nuclear weapons anytime. The second is for a stable supply of energy. We need to keep the nuclear power plants running because renewable energy requires backup. The third reason is the economic efficiency of nuclear power. It costs a lot of money to decommission a nuclear power plant, so the idea is, “Let’s keep them running, make a profit, so it can pay for its own funeral.” Mr. Ogawa, do you have anything to add?
Ogawa: I think all of these things are true, but I wonder if anyone will really be persuaded by these reasons. In the case of COVID measures, there are many people who say plausible things such as ‘Expanding the test will lead to false positives’ or ‘It will be expensive.’ But it sounds like a foregone conclusion, reason for not testing and I don’t feel like being seriously persuaded by it.
I think it is obvious that we have to move away from nuclear power plants, and we have to do it urgently. At the same time, we need to think, ‘Why hasn’t the electricity stopped while most of the nuclear power plants have been shut down for about 10 years since the earthquake?’ Of course, there has been a small increase in renewable energy, but overwhelmingly it is because of the use of fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels generates carbon dioxide, which accelerates global warming. When we look at this reality, it’s not a simple problem that can be solved by stopping nuclear power plants, and I think we are being confronted with the question of whether we are ready and able to make fundamental changes, as you said.
SUGIZO: I completely agree with you. In Japan, the (Yoshihide) Suga administration finally declared in October last year that Japan would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to practically zero by 2050, but it was too late.
Ogawa: It’s the last train, right? And worse, I don’t feel the seriousness.
SUGIZO: It doesn’t resonate with us. It just seems like they don’t want to fall behind the rest of the world, or they are making decisions based on how they want the world to see them. In fact, the world hasn’t really changed much, has it? Fundamentally, I think they know that they have to aim for a decarbonized society and prevention of global warming, but I don’t think they are really thinking about the future or the earth. After all, things only shift based on economic principles, don’t they? In today’s capitalist world, there is absolutely no escape from it. But if you think about it in the right direction, there is a great potential for renewable energy to grow as a business.
Ogawa: On that note, there are some problems with the current situation: the feed-in tariff system for renewable energy was established during the Democratic Party of Japan administration in 2012. Under this system, if you install a solar power generator at home, the electricity generated is bought back at twice the price. This has made solar power generation much more widespread, but it has also increased the electricity bills you pay by about 10%.
A system in which the everyone’s electricity bill will go up, including those with little income, and those who have the money to invest in equipment will profit…
Ogawa: It’s not sustainable, is it? To solve this problem, I think we need a policy that correctly taxes nuclear and fossil fuel. If we tax fossil fuels, the cost of electricity and gasoline will go up, but if we use the tax revenue to buy electricity generated by solar power at a certain price, if we implement the policy correctly……
It will be sustainable.
Ogawa: For this to happen, we need understanding and determination of the people to pay a proper high price for fossil fuels. Do we have the courage on the political side to persuade them to do so? Has there been a politician in the history of Japan who did not turn away from these real problems? I would like to create politics that will challenge such things at any cost, but I am struggling to do so.
*1 Treated water…… “ALPS treated water”. This is water purified and treated using a removal system called an “advanced liquid processing system (ALPS)” in which the level of radioactive substances other than tritium in the contaminated water from the meltdown accident at TEPCO’s (Tokyo Electric Power Company) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was brought down below the regulatory safety limit (less than 1.0 of notified concentration ratio sum).
*2 ……The government decided the release of water into the ocean on April 13, 2021.
*3311…… refers to the disaster caused by the Tohoku Earthquake that occurred at 14:46 on March 11, 2011, and the resulting accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
“Those who don’t have to worry about their next meal, asking for ‘self-control’ will not resonate.” (SUGIZO)
“Why Can’t You Be Prime Minister?”, a documentary film that closely followed Mr. Ogawa for 17 years, shows that he really thinks and acts for the country and its people. However, he is unable to rise through the ranks of party politics and is not allowed to say what he wants to say. Earlier in the dressing room, TOSHI-LOW said, “I saw the movie, I guess he can’t be the prime minister” (LOL). I think it’s time to ask TOSHI-LOW to come out and get to the heart of the story.
TOSHI-LOW: I was listening backstage, but there wasn’t much laughter (LOL). Junjun Ogawa’s story was very convincing, but he was a proportional resurrection*4 (after losing in the district election), so I thought, “He’s unreliable, he can’t be the prime minister. As seen in the movie, there was a time he was so blur, he went to the Party of Hope (LOL).
Ogawa: Pathetic, I know (LOL).
TOSHI-LOW: What is the Constitutional Democratic Party’s (CDP) opinion on nuclear power?
Ogawa: It’s clear that we will stop them.
TOSHI-LOW: When? You’re talking about 30 years from now, right?
Ogawa: When we were the old DPJ, we said 30 years. The CDP agrees that it should be sooner. However, the difficult problem is decommissioning nuclear reactors after 40 years*5. In other words, most of the nuclear power plants will not be able to operate after that. So, I think the turning point will be whether to approve the restart or not.
SUGIZO: But under these circumstances, the government is discussing restarting the Onagawa nuclear power plant*6, isn’t it?
Ogawa: The Liberal Democratic Party is basically promoting nuclear power, so the amount of electricity generated by nuclear power plants now is only a few percent of the total, but they are trying to raise this to more than 20 percent by 2050. This means they will have to build new nuclear power plants.
In the midst of all this, the storage limit of treated water in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant will come in the fall of 2022. The government is the largest shareholder of TEPCO with 55% of the company’s shares, and most of its executives are former officials of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. If we don’t raise our voices, there is a strong possibility that decisions about restarting operations, decommissioning reactors, and decisions on the issue of treated water will be made behind closed doors.
Ogawa: On that subject, I think the government capacity is small. Everyone knows that the world is not all about convenience, so why hide things? With COVID, Chancellor Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Ardern of New Zealand have been clearly explaining inconvenient things. I think people are fed up with the politics of things being decided in the shadows without their knowledge.
SUGIZO: (The voices of politicians) doesn’t come through. When we look through the media, the people who speak out don’t look people in the eye. After all, they are looking at what someone else has written. That in itself doesn’t convey the message.
Ogawa: With music, it’s probably not just the melody and lyrics, but something deep inside that is conveyed through the music, isn’t it?
TOSHI-LOW: You sound like you know what you’re talking about (LOL).
Ogawa: Am I wrong? (LOL)
TOSHI-LOW: Music is music and it’s hard work (LOL).
Ogawa: What I’m trying to say is that the words of a politician are not just “words”, but there is something behind them which is conveyed through their words, facial expressions, and inflections. So, if nothing is conveyed, it means that there is no ‘something’.
TOSHI-LOW: I would think so.
Ogawa: Where is Japan heading from here with such politicians in the cockpit? This anxiety and uncertainty are the most serious disease in our country. The landscape will change if we have a government with a clear idea of where it’s going, why it’s going there, and what kind of society it envisions for the future, even though there are risks involved.
TOSHI-LOW: Why didn’t Junjun (Ogawa’s nickname) win in the district election? (LOL) Listening to you like this, I’d be inclined to vote for you.
Why is that? It’s a terrible thing to ask in front of the person himself (LOL).
SUGIZO: People with strong political power, people with strong connections and people who can create an environment are benefiting. People who are genuinely and earnestly living, who are seriously sending out their ideas are not able to lead the world. In that sense, I think TOSHI-LOW is truly amazing. He stands at the Nippon Budokan, as is. It’s not like he did anything to become big. I’m really impressed you’ve made it this far with such genuineness.
TOSHI-LOW: Am I being praised? I think I’ll have a drink now (LOL).
SUGIZO: So I want to say the same thing to politicians. A person who genuinely speaks and is genuinely serious should be at the top of the party, and moreover, should be the ruling party. I don’t think there has ever been a prime minister like that.
Ogawa: In that sense, I am somewhat hopeful about the popularity of “Hanzawa Naoki” *7, right? Also, a Korean drama called “Itaewon Class” was very popular, and it is the story of a rugged man named Park Se Ri who rises to the top. The struggle against injustice portrayed in these dramas is an issue that probably exists in every industry and is faced by all people. I feel hopeful about the trend in the world where such works are popular.
TOSHI-LOW: Isn’t it the other way around? There are people fighting only in the world of fiction. In reality, there are only ties of obligation and villains, so people seek heroes only in dramas and feel a little relieved. I think it’s that way.
Ogawa: It’s like “Mito Komon”*8. …….But I want to fight without thinking of it that way.
TOSHI-LOW: Of course, it feels good to see the bad guys being defeated in the end, so it means that there are feelings like that in everyone.
Maybe we’re all longing for a leader like that.
SUGIZO: I don’t think (the current leaders) understand real pain. Those who don’t have to worry about their next meal, asking for ‘self-control’ will not resonate.
Ogawa: That’s true. In fact, there are some politicians out drinking, while telling the people to hold back from going out unnecessarily under the COVID situation.
TOSHI-LOW: Let’s have a wrap-party in Ginza afterwards, too (LOL).
If the four of us go to Ginza and do an Instagram-Live while drinking, what will happen to Ogawa-san tomorrow?
Ogawa: I’ll be resigning tomorrow (LOL).
*4Proportional resurrection…… In the House of Representatives election, candidates can run for both primary and proportional representation elections. The term “proportional resurrection” refers to the fact when a candidate who was not elected in the primary election gets elected in the proportional representation.
*5 40-year decommissioning……Following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in 2011, a rule was established in 2013 to limit the operation period of nuclear power plants to 40 years in principle. However, it may be extended only once for a period not exceeding 20 years.
*6 Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant……Tohoku Electric Power Company’s nuclear power plant located in Onagawa-cho, Oshika-gun, Miyagi Prefecture and Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake. The plant was shut down after the earthquake, but in November 2020, the governor of Miyagi Prefecture announced his agreement to restart the plant.
*7 “Hanzawa Naoki”……A TV drama based on Jun Ikeido’s novel “Naoki Hanzawa” series. It is also the name of the main character in the series.
*8 “Mito Komon”……A fiction featuring Tokugawa Mitsukuni (1628-1701), lord of the Mito clan in the Edo period. It is especially known for its historical drama series aired for 42 years from 1969.
“If we don’t change the whole system and structure, our voices won’t be heard.” (TOSHI-LOW)
It’s been 10 years since the earthquake, and I believe that the only way to lead the next 10 years in the right direction is to have honest discussions that transcend our positions. But the COVID forbade us from having direct communication, making this 11th year a troubling start. TOSHI-LOW, do you hold any wrap-parties for your concerts?
TOSHI-LOW: I can’t, and I haven’t been able to do much with the band either. But you know, when you write the kanji ‘to be right’(‘正’), you actually write ‘stop once’(‘一’ one, ‘止’ stop). You know some things are not right, but you keep doing it without making any changes. In that sense, I think we should stop at that point.
What’s important is how to stop what’s wrong and start again, right?
TOSHI-LOW: In the end, it’s the same with nuclear power plants that remain since the Showa era as well as politics. Even if we change a few things in this system, in the end we are just replacing the head. If we don’t change the entire system and structure, our voices will not be heard. Even for elections, the current primary election system (*9) allows only one person to win. When I was a child, we had a medium electoral district system (*10), and I watched my parents choose three candidates out of all. Maybe that wasn’t the best way, but I feel like there were more voices being heard.
Ogawa: In the multi-seat district system, three or five people were selected from one district, and since the same party put up multiple candidates in one district, it wasn’t as if the LDP could win all the time unlike now. So, the parties had to compete with each other. That’s why people say there were many candidates of higher caliber. Nowadays, as long as you can get approved by the party leader, you are safe and sound. That’s why there are many who show petty problematic behaviors. Truly, the electoral system may be a big problem.
It’s a problem with the electoral system, but I also feel that it’s a very Japanese problem. People often talk about diversity nowadays, but there is not much diversity among politicians and political parties, and I think many young people think, in reality, there isn’t much difference between the ruling party and the opposition party.
Especially in times of COVID and earthquakes, radical ideas and drastic actions can attract people’s attention, but I feel that such movements are less common than overseas.
On the other hand, Taro Yamamoto’s idea of a basic income might have been difficult to accept in the past, but now, it’s becoming more realistic. In that sense, I think we all could work together to create something new and different from the conventional ideas and capitalism of the past.
Ogawa: I think that’s important, too. We need to break away from the structure that relied on a growth economy and make a major switch to a politics that supports the lives of everyone, including basic income. All of the participants in this program today are from the same generation, but we don’t know about the bubble economy. I think this is significant. I was brought up by politicians of the generation that experienced the bubble economy, but when I talk to them, I sometimes feel that they are a bit too optimistic. When I entered the workforce in 1994, it was already the ‘ice age’ of employment and I’ve never experienced a full-scale economic boom. That’s why I always have a serious perspective and think about how we can all live in peace. In that sense, we might not be able to install new values unless the wheels of one or two more generations turn. We have one more step to go.
TOSHI-LOW: In fact, the birth rate is declining, and the economy is falling rapidly. Our labor productivity is the lowest in the G7, and our GDP per capita is also the lowest in the G7 *11. What kind of country is a good country in such a situation?
Ogawa: A large GDP means we produce a lot and consume a lot. I think that should be affirmed to a certain extent in order to become wealthy.
TOSHI-LOW: So, what happens after that?
Ogawa: I think the direction we should be heading is a country where GDP doesn’t grow, but provides a certain amount of choice, where a minimum standard of living is guaranteed. Where there is fairness and transparency, and where everyone can live happily and safely in their own way.
TOSHI-LOW: So basically, something like the Nordic welfare state, social democracy?
Ogawa: That’s the minimum, isn’t it? We pay high taxes to support a minimum level of social security for everyone, without reducing society to the market principle of extreme free competition.
SUGIZO: In exchange, education and medical care would be free?
Ogawa: A society where people can live in great peace of mind, with completely free education, pensions, and even unemployment. In such a society, there is no anxiety about the future, so people do not save money and money flows well. In Japan, it’s the opposite. Everyone is anxious about the future, so if there is even a little extra money, they save it.
SUGIZO: That’s right.
Ogawa: In the end, it always comes down to this, the people of such countries say, ‘The politicians we elected will never do anything wrong,’ or ‘The taxes are high, but they are being used properly for our benefit.’ Japan is the opposite, isn’t it? Can you believe that politicians are not corrupt? That’s the world we live in. But in the end, it’s the people who elected those politicians. So, it really doesn’t happen overnight, but we have to persevere and make changes.
*9 Primary election system ……An election system in which only one person is elected per electoral district.
*10 Multi-seat district system …… An election system that used to be used in the House of Representatives elections, in which multiple candidates (generally three to five) are elected from a single electoral district.
*11Source……Labor productivity – from OECD statistical data in 2019 / GDP per capita – from IMF statistical data in 2020
“It is the new voters who will give birth to a new politics. ”(Ogawa)
I think we’re beginning to see what kind of society we should be heading towards. In terms of GDP, maybe we don’t need to produce and consume so much anymore, because that is resulting in depression. Is that really happiness? So, we don’t need to work a lot and produce a lot, but we need to think of ways to make things that are shared by everyone, such as water, energy, parks, etc., not by corporations and not for profit. Aren’t we supposed to take actions to preserve these things for the sake of the earth and the future?
Ogawa: That’s exactly what I think. The richness and cleanliness of parks, water, and air cannot be measured by GDP. However, if, for example, the number of people with mental illnesses increases and the number of people going to psychiatrists increases, GDP will increase. Also, if public safety becomes so bad that people cannot live safely without hiring a lot of security guards, GDP will increase. In other words, we need to create a society that is transparent, fair, and free from anxiety, while placing more importance on things that cannot be measured by GDP.
TOSHI-LOW, it’s quite difficult to know where we should start in order to do that, isn’t it?
TOSHI-LOW: That’s true. I don’t even use the points on my Ponta card *12. I am worried.
It’s true, we tend to accumulate them. (LOL)
TOSHI-LOW: Yeah. I guess the first step is to use them. (LOL) But I do feel that the way we live, and our sense of values are changing a bit. For example, we hold festivals, right? If you ask why the audience doesn’t litter, it’s because if they did, the festival itself would cease to exist. Also, it’s natural, but it’s better to keep your own room clean. And when you go to a friend’s house, you don’t go out of your way to make it dirty, do you? I think there are a lot of young people out there who have that kind of sense, or rather, the sense of cleaning things that are shared in society together. It’s the same with shared houses and shared cars. It’s not about ownership, it’s about the benefits. It would be great if young people who think it’s better to not have to compete with each other or do whatever they want would listen to a talk like today’s and get excited about Junjun.
SUGIZO, you often say that it’s not about selfishness, but about altruism.
SUGIZO: Yes, I do. But when I look at young people, I think they are becoming polarized. Those who are irresponsible are irresponsible. There are some who do whatever they want, but on the other hand, when I go to volunteer work or environmental events, there are many young people who are earnest. There are a lot of youth who are looking to the future and have dreams of contributing to the world. I think it’s our generation’s job to raise their potential and attitude that their generation must do something about politics and building society. I think we are now at a point where we can inspire the next generation, whether it be in politics or in music.
Yes, that’s right. Finally, let me close with a question our audience asked. “Private companies and ordinary people are updating their lives and economic activities, but as far as the media is concerned, the National Diet has not been updated. What is the problem and what do you want Japanese citizens to do to make it happen?”
Ogawa: Thank you very much for the questions. To answer the first question, one problem is that there are many elderly people. I think the Diet and the rest are still stuck in the Showa era. That needs to be changed. As for what I would like to ask the voters, politicians should be the ones to change politics. But politics will not change unless there are more new politicians. New voters are the ones to create new politics.
I was shocked to see how backward Japan had become through this COVID. We can’t develop vaccines, we can’t spread testing, and we can’t provide medical care. I want more people to see this reality and realize that if we leave politics as it is, it will not end well for all. So, what I would like to ask you to do is to go vote. Right now, only half of the eligible voters actually go vote. 70 to 80% of the politicians in the Diet are decided by half of those votes, or a quarter of the total votes. So, whether there is someone you want to choose or not, whether you support a political party or not, I want you to go vote. The only way to change is from there. I want to somehow create a cycle where new voters create new politicians, new politicians create new politics, and the voters benefit from that. The first step toward that is to go vote. That’s all I ask of you.
In a way, Ogawa-san’s film “Why Can’t You Be Prime Minister?” is, in other words, a question of why we can’t make someone like him prime minister.
TOSHI-LOW: This was a great opportunity for me to talk to a Diet member and feel closer to politics. On top of that, I think it’s not about political parties, but about people. TEPCO caused the accident, but they are not the enemy. My friend’s younger brother works for TEPCO, and he showed me his T-shirt with ‘anti-nuclear’ written on it. That’s why I think it’s important to look at a person’s aspirations and essence before doing anything. In politics, politicians are not necessarily to blame. Rather than blaming someone else, we need to have an eye to judge each and every person.
SUGIZO: I completely agree. In the end, I think people are important. Whether it’s politics or music, people who are genuine and have a human heart are the ones who, in their own words, ‘don’t just think about their own happiness, but want to be happy together with everyone around them’ and ‘want to make the earth and the future a better place.’ I would like to realize such a society in this generation, where each scene can be created by people who can live an altruistic life of wanting to make the earth and the future a better place.
*12 Ponta Card ……The name of a point card that can be used at convenience stores such as LAWSON.
Composer, guitarist, violinist, and music producer. He has been active on a global scale as a member of Japan’s leading rock bands LUNA SEA and X JAPAN. At the same time, he pursues his own unique electronic music as a solo artist and has also produced many soundtracks for movies and stage productions.Last year, he restarted the psychedelic jam band SHAG after 12 years. In parallel with his music, he is actively involved in peace activities, human rights and refugee support activities, renewable energy and environmental activities, and volunteer activities in disaster areas. He is known as an activist.
Born in 1974 in Ibaraki Prefecture. TOSHI-LOW is the vocalist of BRAHMAN, OAU, and the guitarist and vocalist of the LOW-ATUS. Since the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, TOSHI-LOW has influenced many musicians and bands with his quick decisions and actions. He continues his support efforts with much humanism.
Born in 1971 in Kagawa Prefecture. A Japanese politician. Former bureaucrat in local government and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC). Member of the House of Representatives for five terms, and a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party. He successively held posts as Parliamentary Secretary for MIC during the Hatoyama Yukio and Naoto Kan administrations, and Representative Special Assistant for the former Constitutional Democratic Party. In 2020, a film about Ogawa, “Why Can’t You Be Prime Minister?”, directed by Arata Oshima, was screened.http://www.junbo.org/
Text by the editorial staff of “KIMINITOU”
A part of the talk session “‘KIMINITOU’ TALK & LIVE vol.1 – 10 years after 3.11 ~ A Discussion on the Future of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and Energy Policy ~” held on Wednesday, February 24, 2021, has been edited and posted.
An article related to this event :Joe Yokomizo’s reportage on Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant 2021(Posted on TouSpo note 3/17/2021)